How do you handle a friend who is always complaining to you?
I have a friend who sees herself as very empathetic and supportive, and someone who listens well and gives great advice. She wants to be a therapist, in fact. But whenever I talk to her, all she does is complain about how exhausting it is taking care of people all the time.
The thing is, I don’t see her as very supportive at all. She never lets me get a word in, always spinning any topic I bring up into something about her, and she never has anything positive to say.
It’s exhausting being around her. She’s so negative and only talks about herself. How do I stop talking to her? And is it okay to voice these concerns, or would that be hurtful and going too far? I don’t want to invalidate her identity or hurt her, but I really think that she needs to work on listening to people if she really wants to help them. And I’m tired of being her go-to person to complain to.
You are absolutely right that helping others requires good listening skills. But in this case, I think it would be most productive to focus on your own relationship with your friend as opposed to her career aspirations.
You are describing a friendship that feels exhausting because your friend doesn’t listen, is self-absorbed, and chronically complains to you. I think you need to take a double-pronged approach:
1) Gently bring this problem to your friend’s attention. Instead of focusing on the nature of her therapeutic skills, per se, or making global statements that will make her defensive, focus on the specifics of your relationship. For example, if she isn’t listening to you, call her on it when it happens. Or if she is berating you for something, tell her know how it makes you feel. Hopefully, she will be receptive to making some small changes, one at a time.
2) If that doesn’t work, you may determine that the friendship is likely to remain draining and unrewarding. You will need to ask yourself if you are you getting any satisfactions from the friendship. Friendships should be mutually satisfying. If this one isn’t, you may want to limit the amount of time you spend with this friend. You may find that she isn’t the type of friend you can depend on as a confidante and that she is more tolerable in small doses.
Hope this helps.
My best, Irene
Prior posts on The Friendship Blog that may be of interest:
Category: RESOLVING PROBLEMS